When I was 18 years old, I found out that I was pregnant. I was ONE week away from leaving for college. I was confused, distraught, and without hope. Despite my growing up in the church, I found myself days later in an abortion clinic. I knew abortion was wrong, but I honestly didn't know what else to do. The night before my scheduled abortion, I prayed to God and begged Him "to keep me from doing this." It was one of the most desperate prayers I've ever prayed. I needed God to literally act on my behalf and my unborn child's behalf that day. Although I wasn't a believer at that time, I knew where to run and Who to cry out to. That day, as I laid on the table having my pre-abortion ultrasound, I was told that I was "too far along to have an abortion." I was also told that I was 6 months pregnant with a baby girl. I ended up praying the other most desperate prayer that I have prayed, "I have screwed up so much, my life is Yours." Not our traditional sinners prayer, huh?! I walked out of that clinic still afraid, young, and pregnant, but I had hope. Only a few months later I gave birth to my daughter, Courteney, who was born with extremely complex, life threatening medical complications and disabilities. So now, not only was I a very young mom, but a mom to a special needs child, and without a boyfriend or a husband. It was a very hard season of life...hospitalizations, living on welfare, lonely, and learning this new world of special needs parenting. Thanks be to God alone that I had an amazing mentor come alongside me for the first 5 years of my journey with Christ; and, I found a great church and made wonderful friends there. God supplied all my needs. When my daughter was about 13 months old, one of my "church friends" wanted to date me! Ten months later we were married and he was now not only my best friend and husband, but he chose to be Courteney's father.
Our journey as a family has been one filled with many unknowns and many trials. I really couldn't imagine having done any of it without the hope and peace of God. God has opened my heart and eyes to a world I would've looked passed, ignored, or even possibly rejected - the world of the disabled. My life has been changed by one little girl who is very different than most kids. I have learned life lessons that I would have otherwise never learned. And most importantly, without her life and her disability, I would have missed so many eternal truths that the Lord has put deeply into my heart. Her life radiates the love and faithfulness of Jesus Christ like no one else who I know. She has a crooked little smile that illuminates her face and defies everything the world would expect. She has contentment that I can only imagine possessing. I have seen God's glory revealed in her life. It is humbling. It is incredibly humbling. We often like to see God in miracles, professions of faith, prophesy, mission trips....but to see God and experience God in a very fragile, limited life takes eternal eyes and an eternal perspective - it is supernatural, it is a miracle. Her life makes me look a little deeper. It makes me open my eyes and my heart to what is really spiritual. It makes me more aware of a watching world that is desperate for hope. It opened my eyes to see others in need. In other countries, poverty and disability often look very different than here in the U.S.
This awareness helped me to see the urgent need my now adopted son, Kevin, had when he lived in El Salvador. I met him while I was serving at a children's home there. He was very small, skin and bones, chronically miserable, agitated, and was non-verbal and non-mobile. The second time I went to El Salvador, God spoke to my heart and showed me that Jesus would do something! Jesus would alleviate his suffering...why wouldn't I? My husband and I pursued adopting Kevin. It took 4 looooong years to get him. Our journey had incredible challenges! Finally, he came home to us as an 18-pound 9-year-old in 2013. Adoption has changed my life. He is thriving in our home with great American medical care and lots of love and attention! It's amazing to see not only how God has restored his body to good health, but how he has become a very energetic, silly, and crazy little boy!! His smiles and joy light up a room and attract a lot of attention! I am incredibly blessed to have two very special children.
Because of the unique experiences the Lord has allowed me, I have tried to walk through any door that the Lord has opened for me to publicly share my story. This has included many Christian venues. This has also included speaking events in the medical world, including at our local Children's Hospital. I have developed a love and passion for the very hard journey parents enter into when they have a sick child. It's a world where doctors and nurses know more than you and you learn quickly that if you don't speak up for your child, often no one will. God has empowered my husband and me to be a voice of patient and family centered care and He has opened doors for me to speak to hundreds of nurses and physicians over the years. It has been an incredible privielege to educate them in their profession on how to equip, empower, and engage families. I have also realized that I have "a pass," if you will, into a place many don't want, or may never have, to go. I have the opportunity to show the love of Christ in the medical setting. Because of the needs my children have, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of medical professionals. I know and believe that each encounter is an opportunity that the Lord has given me to show and declare the love of Jesus. I have learned, and continue to learn, to be intentional on this journey.
May God's glory be revealed in all of us!